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Cameroon bridges West and Central Africa, and encompasses an intricate mosaic of habitats, ranging from tropical lowland rainforests in the south, to mangroves along its coastline on the Gulf of Guinea, to montane forests and savannahs as one travels north. The forests along the border with Nigeria are the wettest part of Africa and support the continent’s second highest concentration of biodiversity. Most—if not all—of the country’s many endemic species (those found nowhere else on Earth) live here. Cameroon’s extremely rich flora and fauna include well over 9,000 plant species, 910 bird species, 320 mammal species, 250 reptile species, and 200 amphibian species.
Despite its natural riches, most species in Cameroon are severely threatened by habitat fragmentation and hunting. The country’s human population is largely impoverished, and many rural communities depend on hunting bushmeat for food and to sell, both to local markets and to high-volume urban markets. With its relatively high human population density, Cameroon has greater capacity to carry out conservation and address these threats; however, it faces major governance challenges.
This exploitation of natural resources is evident across the country in the landscapes where WCS works, for example in the Takamanda-Mone Landscape, which is home to the critically endangered Cross River gorilla. Straddling the Nigeria-Cameroon border, this region’s globally significant biodiversity includes gorillas, chimpanzees, and forest elephants, in addition to more than 500 species of birds and 1,000 species of butterflies. Like other natural areas of Cameroon, including Mbam & Djerem National Park, Takamanda-Mone is experiencing considerable threats from subsistence hunters, cattle ranchers, poachers, and logging and mining interests.
- The Cross River gorilla is the world’s most endangered great ape, with an estimated population of fewer than 300 individuals. The subspecies ranges across 11 scattered sites in Cameroon and Nigeria.
- Cameroon’s government created Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary and Takamanda National Park in part to protect the Cross River gorilla.
- The gorillas of Kagwene have been protected from poaching by the local belief that the apes are people and therefore cannot be hunted or consumed.
- Streams flowing through Mbam & Djerem National Park, located at the northern edges of the humid forests of the Congo Basin, are tributaries to the biggest river in Cameroon, the Sanaga River. The river is the main water catchment for most of southern Cameroon and the park, providing water to humans, livestock, and wildlife as well as almost all the country’s hydro-electric power.
- Mbam & Djerem’s extraordinary habitat diversity supports more than 60 mammal species, 400 bird species, 65 reptile species, and 30 fish species.
- More than 70 villages with a population of approximately 28,000 people are adjacent to Mbam & Djerem National Park.
Cameroon’s rich natural heritage is threatened by uncontrolled wildlife harvests, logging, mining, and the destruction of natural habitats due to agricultural encroachment and human settlement. Human-set fires are also degrading its grassland areas. Commercial hunting for the bushmeat trade endangers many wildlife species, and law enforcement is often hampered by a lack of manpower, logistical support, and training within government institutions. Limited conservation awareness and few alternative sources of income, in turn, drive the wildlife trade.
Mbam & Djerem National Park is also threatened by the development of industrial complexes (logging concessions, hydro-electric power plants, and bauxite mining) in its northeast and southeast corners. In the dry season, semi-nomadic Fulani cattle-herders drive their cattle deep into the park’s savannas in search of water and grazing grounds. Slash-and-burn agriculture is practiced by the majority of peasant farmers in the periphery of the park, which has exacerbated habitat losses.
WCS helped Cameroon create Takamanda National Park and the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary to protect the critically endangered Cross River gorilla, as well Deng Deng National Park. Declared in 2009, Deng Deng was the result of years of conservation planning, and WCS researchers conducted the first gorilla population surveys here in 2002. The park is 224 square-miles in area—approximately the size of the city of Chicago—and protects more than 600 western lowland gorillas, along with other threatened species such as chimpanzees, forest elephants, buffalo, and bongo. WCS has also advised the country on priority setting for biodiversity conservation, planning, and sustainable use of natural resources and is currently working on field projects in Mbam & Djerem National Park and the Takamanda-Mone Landscape.
In partnership with the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and CAMRAIL (the Cameroon Railways)
, WCS continues to play a critical role in enforcing regulations that ban transportation of bushmeat or any other wildlife products from remote locations to urban markets by local trains.
To help Cameroon stem the dangerous trade in bushmeat from forests to lucrative urban markets, WCS partners with the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the CAMRAIL national train network—in the past, a common means of transporting large volumes of wildlife.
From the Newsroom
Following the largest study ever conducted on the forest elephant in Central Africa, conservationists say the species could vanish within the next decade. The study comes as 178 countries gather in Bangkok to discuss wildlife trade issues, including poaching and ivory smuggling.
For the first time in history, camera traps captured footage of Cross River gorillas—the rarest of the great apes. Field conservationists devoted to their study rarely spot them, so our colleagues in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary were floored by footage they discovered last May. Watch as eight gorillas stroll through the woods, and be sure to look out for an incredible demonstration of power by a silverback.
Forest elephants congregate en masse within TNS, a new World Heritage Site, sometimes in groups of 100 or more. Nowhere else in the world are this many forest elephants spotted together.
Rare camera trap footage of Cross River gorillas reveals candid behaviors of these rarest of apes as they make their way along a forest path in Cameroon’s Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary.
A high-tech study of Cross River gorilla habitat finds that the critically endangered ape’s range is more than 50 percent bigger than previously documented. By protecting habitat corridors between the gorilla’s populations, conservationists may be able to help their numbers grow.